Australian women’s crime (writing) spree shows no signs of abating. An astonishing 127 books are competing in Sisters in Crime’s 21st Davitt Awards for the best crime and mystery books – a record equal to 2019.
Judging coordinator, Dr Philomena Horsley, couldn’t be more pleased, if somewhat daunted by the prospect of so much reading.
“What has impressed me and the other five judges is not just the sheer quantity of women’s criminal literary output but the diversity and dynamism of the writing. Whether the books are fiction or non-fiction or aimed at adult, young adults or children, they tell tales that grab you by the throat and won’t let you go,” Dr Horsley said.
“This year we’re particularly taken by the remarkable quality of YA fiction. YA authors are giving adult novelists a big run for their money.”
This year a record 92 adult novels are in contention. More than a third of all books – 47 in total – are debut.
Dr Horsley said that it was obvious that many aspiring writers were taking up a life of crime.
“Most writers won’t strike it rich (unless Hollywood takes them up) but they can be part of a reading community that values their writing. They can also be part of a literary community which is generous and supportive. Our motto is fun,” she said.
Themes are up-to-the-minute, Dr Horsley said.
“Bush fires in Kimberley Starr’s Torched, sex trafficking in Robin Gregory’s Traffic and developer conspiracies in Sarah Thornton’s White Throat dig deep into contemporary issues, while complex dystopian themes are creatively explored in Davina Bell’s The End of the World is Bigger Than Love and Kate Mildenhall’s The Mother Fault.
“Mysteries with history also expose criminality which resonates today, such as the treatment of the Chinese on the goldfields in Mirandi Riwoe’s Stone Sky Gold Mountain (which has already won the 2020 Queensland Literary Award – Fiction Book Award and the inaugural ARA Historical Novel Prize).”
The scene of the crime varies widely in this year’s books, Dr Horsley said.
“This year’s novels transport us from hallowed halls of Harvard in Ceridwen Dovey’s Life After Truth, to the wharves of Melbourne in Karina Kilmore’s Where the Truth Lies, to the waters off Fiji in BM Allsopp’s Death Beyond the Limit, to the Australian Alps in Lee Christine’s Charlotte Pass, to South Africa in LA Larkin’s Prey and to pre-World War I Singapore in AM Stuart’s Revenge in Rubies,” she said.
“Time-wise, we go from nineteenth century Australia in Tea Cooper’s two mysteries, The Cartographer’s Daughter and The Girl in the Painting, to 1930s’ Boston in Sulari Gentill’s A Testament of Character, the 10th novel in her Rowland Sinclair series, and to World War II Brisbane in JP Powell’s Brisbane Line.”
Dr Horsley said that screen adaptions were transforming the criminal literary scene.
“The world has loved the two series of Big Little Lies, based on Liane Moriarty’s book of the same name. The film of Jane Harper’s debut novel, The Dry, which won two Davitt Awards in 2017 and has since sold over a million copies world-wide, has grossed more than $20.5m at the Australian box office since its New Year’s Day release,” she said.
“Soon we can look forward to Troppo, a TV series based on Candice Fox’s bestselling novel set in FNQ, Crimson Lake. It will star The Expanse’s’ Thomas Jane.”
Pandemic lockdown permitting, six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner in Melbourne, probably in late August: Best Adult Novel; Best Young Adult Novel; Best Children’s Novel; Best Non-fiction Book; Best Debut Book (any category); and Readers’ Choice (as voted the 550+ members of Sisters in Crime Australia).
Voting opens on Friday 11 June, closing Friday 30 July. Only financial members are eligible to vote. A shortlist will be published in July.
The Davitts are named after Ellen Davitt, the author of Australia’s first mystery novel, Force and Fraud, in 1865. They cost publishers nothing to enter.
The awards are handsome carved polished wooded trophies featuring the front cover of the winning novel under perspex. No prize money is attached.
Self-published books are eligible. Books co-authored or edited by men are not.
The judging panel for 2021 comprises Philomena Horsley, winner of the 2018 Scarlet Stiletto Award and medical autopsy expert; Joy Lawn, YA expert and reviewer; Janice Simpson, author and academic; Emily Webb, true crime author and podcaster; and Sisters in Crime national convenors, Moraig Kisler and Tara Mitchell.
Previous Davitt Awards have been presented by Val McDermid; Scottish crime writer (2020, 2010, 2003); NZ crime writer Dr Joanne Drayton (2019); Danish thriller writer, Sissel-Jo Gazan (2018); lawyer and true crime writer, Hilary Bonney (2017); Australian crime writer Liane Moriarty (2016); UK crime writer Sophie Hannah (2015); South African crime writer Lauren Beukes (2014); New Zealand crime writer Vanda Symons (2013); Swedish crime writer Äsa Larsson (2012); Singaporean crime writer Shamini Flint (2011); Justice Betty King (2009), Judge Liz Gaynor (2008); Walkley-winning investigative journalist Estelle Blackburn (2007); true crime writer Karen Kissane (2006); Sisters Inside’s Debbie Kilroy (2005); US crime writer Karin Slaughter (2004); ACTU President Sharan Burrow (2002) and Chief Commissioner, Victoria Police, Christine Nixon (2001).
Sisters in Crime Australia was set up 30 years ago and has chapters in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. It also hosts a popular annual short-story competition, the Scarlet Stiletto Awards, which turns 28 this year.
0417 121 771
Carmel Shute, Sisters in Crime Secretary and National Convenor
Adult crime novels (92)
Kristen Alexander, Riptides (Bantam Australia, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia)
Belinda Alexandra, The Mystery Woman (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
B M Allsopp, Death Beyond the Limit (Fiji Islands Mysteries #3) (Coconut Press)
Rachel Amphlett, Her Final Hour (Detective Mark Turpin novel #2) (Saxon Publishing)
Rachel Amphlett, None the Wiser (Detective Mark Turpin novel #1) (Saxon Publishing)
Rachel Amphlett, Turn to Dust (Detective Kay Hunter Murder Mystery #9) (Saxon Publishing)
Jennifer Bacia, Dark Side of the Harbour (Booktopia Editions)
Amy Barker, Paradise Earth: A novel (Stormbird Press) Debut
Sarah Barrie, Deadman’s Track (Calico Mountain #3) (HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Australia)
Sonya Bates, Inheritance of Secrets (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut
Joanna Beresford, Every Year I Am Here (Atlas Productions) Debut
Anne Buist, The Long Shadow (Text Publishing)
Rae Cairns, The Good Mother (Bandrui Publishing) Debut
B M Carroll, Who We Were (Serpents Tail, an imprint of Allen & Unwin)
Lee Christine, Charlotte Pass (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Phillipa Nefri Clark, Deadly Falls (Charlotte Dean Mysteries #2) (Phillipa Nefri Clark)
Phillipa Nefri Clark, Deadly Secrets (Charlotte Dean Mysteries #3) (Phillipa Nefri Clark)
Phillipa Nefri Clark, Last Known Contact (Phillipa Nefri Clark)
Sherryl Clark, Dead and Gone (Judi Westerholme #2) (Verve Books)
Sarah Clutton, The Daughter’s Promise (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK)
Muriel Cooper, Lucid (Pegasus Publishers) Debut
Tea Cooper, The Cartographer’s Daughter (HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Australia)
Tea Cooper, The Girl in the Painting (HQ Fiction, an imprint of Harlequin Australia)
Megan Daymond, Bones of Deception (Andy Knight #2) (Fracture Publishing)
Kaye Dobbie, The Road to Ironbark (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Ceridwen Dovey, Life After Truth (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) Debut
Anna Downes, The Safe Place (Affirm Press) Debut
Chris Elliott, Sibanda and the Death’s Head Moth (DI Jabulani Sibanda #2) (Constable, an imprint of Hachette Australia)
Kirsty Ferguson, Never Ever Tell (Boldwood Books)
Katherine Firkin, Sticks and Stones (Bantam, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) Debut
Candice Fox, Gathering Dark (Penguin Random House Australia)
Darry Fraser, Elsa Goody, Bushranger (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Darry Fraser, The Last Truehart (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Rebecca Freeborn, The Girl She Was (Pantera Press) Debut
Poppy Gee, Vanishing Falls: A novel (Booktopia Editions)
Sulari Gentill, A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) (Pantera Press)
Brigid George, Tooting Moon (Dusty Kent Mystery #5) (Potoroo Publishing)
Megan Goldin, The Night Swim (Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia)
Kerry Greenwood, Death in Daylesford (Phryne Fisher) (Allen & Unwin)
Robin Gregory, Traffic (Sandi Kent Mystery #1) (Clan Destine Press) Debut
Jane Harper, The Survivors (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Sally Hepworth, The Good Sister (Pan Macmillan Australia)
D K Hood, Her Broken Wings (Detectives Kane and Alton #8) (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK)
D K Hood, Her Shallow Grave (Detectives Kane and Alton #9) (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK)
D K Hood, Promises in the Dark (Detectives Kane and Alton #10) (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK)
Shona Husk, Close to the Truth (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia) Debut
Helen Iles, Dark Secrets (Linellen Press) Debut
Nora James, A Shot at Amore (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Alexandra Joel, The Paris Model (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut
Mary Jones, Troubled Waters (Green Olive Press) Debut
H R Kemp, Deadly Secrets: What unspeakable truths lurk beneath the lies? (Helmine Kemp) Debut
Karina Kilmore, Where the Truth Lies (Simon & Schuster Australia) Debut
Katherine Kovacic, The Shifting Landscape (Alex Clayton #3) (Echo Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK)
L A Larkin, Prey (Olivia Wolfe #2) (Clan Destine Press)
C A Larmer, And Then There Were 9 (The Agatha Christie Book Club #4) (Larmer Media)
C A Larmer, Without a Word (Ghostwriter Mystery #7) (Larmer Media)
Suzanne Leal, The Deceptions (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Judith Lees, The Silent Syringe (Moonglow Publishing) Debut
Carol Lefevre, Murmurations (Spinifex Press) Debut
Leisl Leighton, Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud #2) (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Michele Lourie, Deceiving (Michele Lourie)
Kirsty Manning, The Lost Jewels (Allen & Unwin)
Annette Marner, A New Name for the Colour Blue (Wakefield Press) Debut
Nicola Marsh, My Sister’s Husband (Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK)
Donna Mazza, Fauna (Allen & Unwin) Debut
Vanessa McCausland, The Valley of Lost Stories (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
Fleur McDonald, Red Dirt Country (Detective Dave Burrows) (Allen & Unwin)
Kerry McGinnis, Croc Country (Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia)
Petronella McGovern, The Good Teacher (Allen & Unwin)
Marie McMillan, The Lost Day: Under Newgrange (Europe Books UK) Debut
Dervla McTiernan, The Good Turn (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
Kate Mildenhall, The Mother Fault (Simon & Schuster Australia) Debut
Natasha Molt, Cutting the Cord (Impact Press, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Australia) Debut
Alyssa J Montgomery, Five Dates with the Billionaire (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Kayte Nunn, The Silk House (Hachette Australia)
Tania Park, Double Cross (Tania Park)
Jan Pearson, Blue Dragon Spring (Celestial Symbols #4) (Proverse Hong Kong)
J P Powell, The Brisbane Line (Brio Books) Debut
Mirandi Riwoe, Stone Sky Gold Mountain (University of Queensland Press)
Bronwyn Rodden, Orphan Rock (Ros Gordon Mystery #2) (Bronwyn Rodden)
Elisabeth Rose, A Light in the Dark (Taylor’s Bend #3) (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Kimberley Starr, Torched (Pantera Press)
Karen Lee Street, Edgar Allan Poe and the Empire of the Dead (Poe and Dupin Mystery #3) (Point Blank, an imprint of Wildside Press)
A M Stuart, Revenge in Rubies (Harriet Gordon Mystery #2) (Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House USA)
Alison Stuart, The Goldminer’s Sister (Maiden’s Creek #2) (Mira, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Chris Stuart, For Reasons of Their Own (Original Sin Press) Debut
Leah Swann, Sheerwater (4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut
Sarah Thornton, White Throat (Text Publishing)
Sandi Wallace, Black Cloud (Gumshoe, an imprint of Next Chapter)
Anna Willett, Dear Neighbour: No boundary to murder (Cold Peak Media)
Anna Willett, Savage Bay Nightmare (Lucy Hush #3) (Cold Peak Media)
Belinda Williams, Don’t Let me Forget (Escape Publishing, an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia)
Young Adult crime novels (8)
Davina Bell, The End of the World Is Bigger than Love (Text Publishing) Debut
Sarah Epstein, Deep Water (Allen & Unwin Children’s)
Fiona Hardy, How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life (Affirm Press)
Hayley Lawrence, Ruby Tuesday (Penguin Random House Australia) Debut
Ellie Marney, None Shall Sleep (Allen & Unwin Children’s)
Fin J Ross, Billings Better Bookstore and Brasserie (Clan Destine Press)
Lisa Walker, The Girl with the Gold Bikini (Wakefield Press) Debut
Lili Wilkinson, The Erasure Initiative (Allen & Unwin Children’s)
Children’s crime novels (16)
Sandra Bennett, Fossil Frenzy (Adamson Adventures #3) (Rosella Ridge Books) Debut
Jackie French, The Ghost of Howlers Beach (Butter O’Bryan Mysteries #1) (HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut
Jacqueline Harvey, Alice-Miranda in the Outback (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia)
Jacqueline Harvey, Freefall (Kensy and Max #5) (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia)
Petra James, Henrie’s Hero Hunt (Walker Books Australia) Debut
Rebecca McRitchie, Havoc!: The untold magic of Cora Bell (Jinxed #2) (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
Amelia Mellor, The Grandest Bookshop in the World (Affirm Press) Debut
Julianne Negri, The Secret Library of Hummingbird House (Affirm Press) Debut
Christie Nieman, Where We Begin (Pan Macmillan Australia) Debut
Pamela Rushby, The Mummy Smugglers of Crumblin Castle (Walker Books Australia)
Laura Sieveking, Musical Mystery (Ella at Eden #3) (Scholastic Press Australia) Debut
R A Spratt, Near Extinction (The Peski Kids #4) (Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia)
A L Tait, The Fire Star (Maven & Reeve Mystery #1) (Penguin Random House Australia) Debut
Lian Tanner, A Clue for Clara (Allen & Unwin Children’s) Debut
Renee Treml, Sherlock Bones and the Sea-creature Feature (Allen & Unwin Children’s)
Sue Whiting, The Book of Chance (Walker Books Australia)
Non-fiction crime books (11)
Tanya Bretherton, The Killing Streets: Uncovering Australia’s first serial murderer (Hachette Australia)
Stella Budrikis, The Edward Street Baby Farm: The murder trial that gripped a city (Fremantle Press) Debut
Stephanie Convery, After the Count: The death of Davey Browne (Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia) Debut
Melissa Davey, The Case of George Pell: Reckoning with child sexual abuse (Scribe Publications) Debut
Heidi Lemon, The First Time He Hit Her: The shocking true story of the murder of Tara Costigan, the woman next door (Hachette Australia) Debut
Xanthé Mallett, Reasonable Doubt (Pan Macmillan Australia)
Louise Milligan, Witness: An investigation into the brutal cost of seeking justice (Hachette Australia)
Caroline Overington, Missing William Tyrrell (HarperCollins Publishers Australia)
Monique Patterson, United in Grief: The tragic story of Stephanie Scott’s murder and the effect it had on the small town of Leeton NSW (Genius Book Company) Debut
Suzanne Smith, The Altar Boys (ABC Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers Australia) Debut
Angela Williams, Snakes and Ladders: A memoir (Affirm Press) Debut